Landing on an Unknown Planet

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Text to Speech:

“Aster, the readings from the Navigation System do not make any sense,” Mittens announces.

“Access Advanced Functions and run diagnostics,” I answer. This is strange…

“Executing Quick Diagnostic on Navigation System… It appears to be working according to specifications. Extending Quick Diagnostic to other systems… It appears the Hyperdrive components were replaced recently. The propulsion unit shows signs of misalignment, and the Subspace Compression System seems to not be properly tuned. I advise emergency shutdown.”

This is bad! Immediately, I perform an emergency shutdown on the Hyperdrive. The shuttle returns to the darkness of space. This was close! It appears luck is on my side after all… If anything went more wrong, this shuttle would have been instantly pulverized while entering Hyperspace!

“Mittens, reference the navigation database and recalculate our current position!”

“Understood. Scanning nearby constellations…”

This is going to take a while, even with current technology. Who knows where we have ended up? I hope this place is already charted!

While waiting for Mittens to finish, I should have a look at the status of the aforementioned Hyperdrive components. I open the diagnostic console… this is worse than I thought! The Subspace Compression Buffer is slightly deteriorated. But propulsion units are about to break down. The buffer will most likely last longer, but the propulsion units will last at most ten parsecs at maximum speed. It's safe to assume they'll break down before that. In the worst case, I can still use the Sublight propulsion system as an inferior replacement. But that's just the last resort if I need to reach the nearest inhabitable planet…

Next, I check the status of the communication systems. The Interstellar Subspace Communication system is not responding. This can't be… I check again. Only Intrastellar Subspace Communication is online. I can't call for help with just this!

But didn't Isaac check the systems for me?! Why are they faulty? Wait, all systems needed for orbital travel are working. I guess, he possibly just didn't know I was planning an interstellar trip. I should have checked the systems myself!

Well, it's no use crying over spilled milk. I need to make sure I get somewhere safe first.

“Aster, I have most likely determined our location. We appear to be on the outer edge of the Tamagon Galaxy.”

So we've jumped as far as to another galaxy?! As far as I remember, this galaxy has barely been explored…

“Are you sure?”

“I am sure we are in M33. I am just slightly uncertain about our current exact location. Data on the Tamagon Galaxy is scarce. But taking into account where we were planning on travelling, these coordinates are most likely.”

A map appears on-screen. There's an overview of the Kyklos Galaxy and the Tamagon Galaxy. The location of Pris-Ⅱ and Nael-Ⅳ are shown alongside with a ray from Pris-Ⅱ through Nael-Ⅳ. Several locations in the Tamagon Galaxy are shown to match the scans. However, only one is remotely near the ray drawn. And it's on the other side of the Tamagon Galaxy! It's kiloparsecs away from explored space! That's almost a megaparsec!

Shuttles are usually only equipped with interstellar Hyperdrive. It would take months just to cross the void between the Tamagon Galaxy and the Kyklos Galaxy. Then there's the matter of energy… Which means I'm stuck here, even if I had a fully functional Hyperdrive.

I check the fuel: the energy core is barely used at all. Lucky me! I assumed the core to be almost depleted after such a trip. Life support seems to work as well. Great, at least I have something to work with.

“Where's the nearest inhabitable planet, Mittens?”

“According to the navigation database, the nearest inhabitable planet is Amauga-Ⅲ, 8.3 parsecs from here.”

“Take control of the shuttle and tune the oscillator to Hyperdrive cruise speed. We need to extend the life of the components as much as possible. Meanwhile, I'll try to realign the propulsion units.”

Aligning the units isn't that hard. You just need a knack for delicate work. Well, usually, that is. With how deteriorated they are, their output and directions are all over the place. This is going to take a while…

A few hours later, both Mittens and I finish our work on the Hyperdrive. In the end, I still need to make use of the Sublight propulsion units to correct for an axis that the Hyperdrive units are now unable to provide. I align the shuttle to the direction we need to go and engage the drive. The usual light of Subspace Travel surrounds the shuttle.

“How is the status of the drives, Mittens?”

“The output is consistent. There is no excessive wear on the components.”

“That's good news.”

“We should arrive at Amauga-Ⅲ in 5 days.”


I get something to eat from the small replicator.

“Aster, materializing food takes at a lot of energy. After we arrive at the planet, I suggest you acquire others sources of food.”

“I see. Is there sentient life on Amauga-Ⅲ?”

“That is presently unknown. In the worst case, you need to cultivate the land yourself.”

“Just like in the life simulation games?”

“Yes, just this time, it is not a game.”

“Is there anything else I should keep in mind?”

“Should you encounter sentient life, the emergency manual recommends drawing as little attention as possible when stranded on an underdeveloped planet.”

Five days later, we're still in Hyperspace. The propulsion unit hasn't blown. Yet.

“We are about to reach our destination,” Mittens says, “Aster, how will you handle it when we arrive there? I cannot help you outside the shuttle.”

I haven't thought of that yet! Let's see…

“I could try to install you to my personal terminal,” I answer, “but I'd rather have you here on the shuttle where you have access to our databases. Instead, we can keep in contact using Subspace Communication and my personal terminal. I'll make it, so you can access to the advanced functions of my terminal. While I'm at it, I'll make sure you can access my implants as well.”

I grab my terminal and create endpoints for Mittens to connect to. My implants are wirelessly powered by the that device. They don't take much energy. Permanently powering the implants won't drain the power much. At most, I have to recharge the terminal once a quarter.

“I'm done. Try connecting to it.”

“Initial connection established. Integrating new endpoints… New basic advanced operation endpoints added.”

“We'll test the endpoints as soon we've landed.”

“Hyperdrive propulsion units are down.”

“I'm happy they lasted this long. Emergency dropout. Switch to Sublight systems.”

We drop out of Hyperspace. A planet not unlike Terra comes into view. Granted, it's not blue and green, but blue and purple.

“Switch to conventional space was successful.”

The planet is already visible, just the Sublight system will suffice. We get closer.

“How is the atmosphere?”

“The atmosphere is 80% Oxygen, no toxic gases detected. The planet is close to its equinox, so spring or fall is about to begin, depending on which hemisphere we land.”

“Are there any signs of civilization?”

“No signals on Radio and Subspace Communication detected. Scanning for buildings and humanoid life signs is not available.”

“It can't be helped then. We just have to land somewhere and hope for the best. Target a suitable a location where it will become spring soon. Sure, it'll be easier to find sustenance on the other side now, but in the worst case, I'd like to start cultivating crops sooner than later.”

I bring the shuttle to an entry course. Atmospheric entry is shaky as expected, but it goes without a hitch. In the mountains of the Southern Hemisphere, I quickly find a temple-like structure. So there must be some sentient life here. Why didn't we detect any light at night? Does this civilization still exist? The whole area is completely white with snow. I land at a nearby cave.

The short range detection sensors only show some small animals in the area. No humanoids. I have the replicator create some winter clothes and change into them. I open the shuttle door and leave the shuttle. Even in the winter clothes, it's cold.

“Test… test… Mittens, can you hear me?” I ask.

“Yes, Aster,” Mittens voice sounds in my head, “I can hear you. Terminal endpoints are working as expected. To improve audio quality, I suggest you incorporate an audio system on the collar of your coat.”

I go back into the shuttle and synthesize a microphone and speakers that I can clip on my coat. I connect those with my terminal and go outside to test them again.

“Good, and just to be sure, lock the shuttle while I'm away.”

I walk towards the temple. There are no people around. I enter the temple.

It's slightly warmer in here. There's an altar. And there's something like an inscription on the back wall.

“Mittens, can you see this?”

“Yes, I can. The connection to your eye implant allows me to take pictures of what you see. I am currently trying to decipher the inscription. It appears to be an Abugida script: each unique symbol is a consonant, and the orientation of the symbol expresses the vowel. Known syntactic rules have been detected in the language. As we speak, I am filling an entry in the language database for this language.”

I touch the altar.

“▢▢▢▢▢?” a friendly voice whispers. I don't know where it came from.

“Did you hear that, Mittens?”, I whisper.

“Yes, it matches with what I inferred about the language. Extrapolating from context, I believe it says something along the lines of ‘What can we do for you, young man?’”

“Do you have enough information to answer yet? ‘I got lost.’”

“No, not yet. But simple words should be possible.”

“▣▣. ▣▣”, my voice sounds from the speaker on my collar.

“▢▢▢▢,” the voice answers.

I feel a gentle breeze blowing through the room.

“What was that?” I ask.

“▢▢▢▢,” the voice continues.

“We help you. We give you our blessing,” Mittens translates, “I am done compiling an automatic translation program. Your speech will end up lacking at points, but I will continue tweaking it with every interaction you have with the language.”

“Where are the other people?” I say. Like with any modern automated translation system, only I and Mittens can hear myself now, the at the collar of my coal cancels the sound of my voice and output words of the foreign language in my voice. It's strange at first, but you get used to the delay and the artifacts the automatic translation system sometimes generates.

“▢ people only come ▢ once a ▢ in at the beginning of spring to celebrate the end of winter. Spring is still a few weeks away,” the voice answers.

“Who are you? Can I stay here until they arrive?”

“We are Aura. We allow you to stay here with your flying home until other people arrive. In ▢ building, do not to kill ▢ or bring dead ▢ inside.”

“Thank you very much.”

I return to the shuttle and park it in front of the temple. I use the stilt legs to raise the shuttle to create a roofed area. Good thing the shuttle has a retractable ramp for this kind of use.

“They said not to kill animals in the temple,” I repeat to Mittens.

“I think they assumed you need to eat. Without replicator technology, you will have to hunt animals for food, especially if you do not have stock. While we still have enough energy now, you should go hunting to save on energy.”

“I have to go hunting then… I need a weapon for that.”

“How about a Gauss rifle? A railgun has a higher output, but rails wear out much more quickly.”

“Doesn't the replicator have a safety mechanism to prevent the materialization of weapons?”

“Since it is an emergency, I have taken the liberty of overriding said mechanism.”

“I see, I did tell you to take control of the ship. Prepare the schematics for a Gauss rifle. I won't be using it to hunt — it's just there for emergencies. And just in case, make it, so only I can use it.”

“Understood. What will you use for hunting instead?”

“I'll use a bow — I've used one in a simulation game before. There's no assistance system, but I think I'll manage. And some knives. And since we can't keep making them, make them last.”

“I have prepared schematics for items you need now.”

“Thanks, did you set up the distress signal?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Please create the items. While you do that, I'll clear the snow below the shuttle.”

After the items have been created, I take them and go search the area. I try to sneak around to find some animal I can hunt. Something is moving over there. It's a blueish white, fluffy something that can move very fast. Is it something like a rabbit? It stopped. I can see it has long ears. I'm going to call it a rabbit. It's kinda cute, I can't possibly… No! This is something I need to do if I even want to have a chance at going home! I knock an arrow and aim at the rabbit. I shoot and see I've missed. At least, think I did. As if something pulls the arrow towards the rabbit, the arrow's trajectory changes, and it even accelerates to hit the rabbit!

“Was that an optical illusion? Or gust a wind? Or did the arrow fly in a strange path?”

“No, the arrow did change its path. It even sped up before hitting the target.” 

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